I used Pinterest to plan a trip with my mom to Appenzell, Switzerland and it nearly gave her a heart attack. Here’s the story of our high-altitude Pinterest fail.
In an effort to make this mom-and-daughter trip to France and Switzerland a dream come true, I bugged my mom for her wish list throughout the entire planning process. She always replied, “I’ll love whatever we do.” So when she finally sent me a picture on Pinterest and said, “this looks really cool,” I jumped on it.
It did look really cool. I found Berggasthaus Aescher-Wildkirchli online and contacted them. They didn’t have online booking, so I emailed them my credit card information after a brief glance at TripAdvisor and crossed my fingers, hoping they were legit.
A couple months later, My mom and I were on a train to the Appenzell region in Switzerland. After nearly two hours of train travel from Zurich, we arrived in the middle of nowhere and stood looking at a cable car that cost an arm and a leg to use. By now, I’d had enough time to start worrying — was this place really there? We rode the cable car straight up the mountainside to find out.
We arrived at the top, nobody in sight except one young man cleaning the cable car station. We walked outside to see a sign with a bunch of words, none of which looked like the name of our hostel. We asked the lone man, who didn’t seem to speak English but understood our butchered pronunciation of the German accommodations. He pointed us down a sliver of trail on the mountain.
We began our hike down the mountain, mom’s suitcase taking a beating from the steep incline and loose rocky trail. After a few minutes of this, the path turned sharply to the right, into a cave, with no other way to go.
The cave was dimly lit, dripping water made for an ever-muddy path. At the end of it, we came to a 17th century hermit hut. As we stopped at a bench there for a moment, three tourists wandered by and asked us where the trail went. Little did we know they would be the only English-speakers we would see for the next two days.
By then it was starting to get dark, and I wondered how it would feel to die on a mountain.
I told my exhausted mother to sit at the hut with our bags while I went on to look for the hostel. Luckily, after passing a wooden bridge and rounding the corner, I could finally breathe again when I laid eyes on it.
We arrived moments later, walking toward the dozens of people on the restaurant patio outside of our hostel. Everyone stopped eating dinner and stared silently as we walked up. There was no reception desk, and we had no knowledge of the language. I put on my most confident face (though I’m sure it was obviously fake) and walked inside.
The entry went directly into the kitchen and now the chefs were staring at me too. I wanted to step back out and see if there was another door, but I didn’t dare facing the stares of the crowd again. “Hello,” I spoke up with my last shreds of confidence and energy.
Luckily, a woman in the kitchen greeted us in broken English and showed us to our
It was up a ladder, with a swinging wood panel for a door. The woman turned to my mom and asked if she would be okay with the ladder. Mom nearly laughed — I knew what she was thinking: if she could manage that hike, she could manage a ladder to the heavens.
We asked for wi-fi: none. We asked for showers: none — just a “washroom” with a big sink.
When we asked about dinner, we finally got a yes. With a few less stares, we went out to dinner and looked over the menu — thankfully semi-translated. We hadn’t realized how isolated this place would be; that restaurant was our only option.
By this time, I was wondering what I had dragged my mother into. She must have been miserable. This was possibly the dumbest thing I had ever done while traveling. I wanted to find another place to stay and leave ASAP — but I didn’t have any wi-fi to book anywhere else. I had no idea what to think, but I felt responsible for whatever we had done.
One wall of our hostel was a MOUNTAIN. And I couldn’t decide if that was a win or fail. I had a tiny bit of phone signal though, and texted my husband about it. According to him, it was a Batman-esque win.
LUCKILY, MY MOM IS EPIC AND BATMAN-LIKE.
THAT NIGHT, WE SLEPT ON THE SIDE OF THE MOUNTAIN.
The next morning, we ate a Swiss breakfast on that insanely beautiful mountainside. With nothing else to do, we hiked back to the cable car station and watched hang gliders jump from the cliff there.
By the cable car station there were two simple hotels with restaurants in them as well. We ate at one after some hiking and then watched a few more hang gliders.
We ate dinner at our hostel’s restaurant again, enjoying the slow pace and watching hikers pass through. They all had their boots, hiking poles, and backpacks. No wonder they had ogled us, two women with suitcases and skirts, when we arrived. It felt like we invaded a private Swiss enclave of hikers.
That night we went to bed sweaty, without a shower. A group of young mountain rangers sang rowdy drinking songs outside as we dozed off.
The real adventure began the next morning, after breakfast. The hike uphill, back to the cable car, WITH our luggage.
We were sweating within minutes. After enjoying the cool temperatures of the cave, we got to the real challenge. The steep, long incline up a thin, rocky trail to the cable car. We took turns with my backpack (it was easier to climb with) and mom’s suitcase.
Mom bravely took her suitcase as we started up the thin trail. Lugging it like a deadweight, we stopped every few steps to catch our breath. Mom had recently informed me of a slight heart flutter, and now I could hear her breathing heavily from several feet away. I told her to stop, convincing her that with the great strength of my youth, I could take my backpack up to the top and return for her suitcase.
I took my backpack up to the top as quickly as I could. I think my right lung collapsed. But my mom was still on the mountainside. I turned around to see her halfway to me with her suitcase. I pretended to be disappointed that she had done it herself, as I wheezed and carried her suitcase for the last few steps.
We finally made it onto the cable car, down the mountain, and away from Appenzell, leaving with mixed feelings. We laughed, knowing it was an amazing, truly once-in-a-lifetime experience. We had loved the small ponies stepping through the restaurant, the bunnies on the rocks, and the sheep bells ringing constantly in the distance. But we also thought we might need a hospital.
Looking back at my pictures, it certainly doesn’t look like a Pinterest fail. It looks just like the pin.
There were just a few details missing. But that’s how every trip is, isn’t it? No photo can capture the depth of mountain views, nor the hike it took to get there. That’s why looking at a picture isn’t enough for a traveler — we know there’s so much more to a place. My Wanderlust Pinterest board is filling up now not with dreams but with memories.